"If it is not the largest cleanup in the nation, it's one of the largest clean up efforts," said Jimmy Durham.
Durham is on the executive committee of LAPA, the Lake Allatoona Preservation Authority, which cooperatively organized this year's event with LAA, the Lake Allatoona Association. Durham estimated that the event had around 3,800 to 4,000 volunteers.
These volunteers included around a thousand Cub Scouts ages 6 --10 as well as several hundred Boy Scouts. Many of the Cub Scouts gathered Friday night at Sweet Water Creek to camp out before cleaning the shoreline. Frank I. Cullins, Unit Commissioner and Silver Beaver of the Boy Scouts of America, felt the event also taught the Cub Scouts valuable lessons such as "take pictures but leave only prints ... that its important to not leave trash but take it with you." Cullins has been involved in scouting 63 years and coming to the Great Lake Allatoona Clean Up for 16 years.
Community members also joined in the cleanup. Durham was quick to praise the employees from Georgia Power and Plant Bowen. "They really need to be recognized," Durham said. "Several dozen or more of their employees came as volunteers."
Among the various individuals, church members, and school groups attending the clean up was a robot building team. The group, called Kell Robotics, is from Kell High school. Six high school students and their teacher, Ed Barker, gathered Saturday to clean the lake. This group does a lake clean up every year.
The group has built a robot to gather trash from the surface of the water and are currently building a second robot. However, today they cleaned by hand. "We build machines to clean up the shores," said Barker. "Sometimes we clean by hand."
Kell Robotics is currently working on a robot called Orca to clean oil spills like the one last year in the Gulf Coast. The robot is designed as a boat with a device in the front that collects the oil and stores in a bag in the back. "Hopefully there will never be another oil spill where they'll have to use it," Barker said.
"All the trash is really damaging to the marine life," said junior Matthew Tompkins. "If we get the trash out out, we can protect everything in the water."
LAPA is charged with monitoring the cleanliness of the water. According to Durham, if the trash is removed when the water is down, the water's quality will be improved; the water will be much cleaner.
After the cleanup many of the volunteers gathered together for a picnic at Riverside Park for an afternoon of food, music, games and give-aways. Several speakers also spoke to the younger children about the importance of keeping the environment's water clean. "The only thing you should find there is water," said guest speaker Glenn Page. Meanwhile Cullins watched an abandoned soda can to see who would collect it and if the day's lesson had been learned.
The volume of trash will be measured next week, but Durham expects the cleanup to have gathered several tons of trash.
"It's a exciting and very worthwhile event that only gets better every year," Durham said. "We appreciate everyone who participates and gives up a beautiful fall day for the project."
"Its what's right and needs to be done," said freshman and Kell Robotics member Thomas Settle.